Nine-time NASCAR champion and NASCAR hall of fame nominee Mike Stefanik has passed away. He was 61 years old.
We don't have all the details, but what we do know is that Mike Stefanik died in a plane crash. According to CNN quoting a report from Connecticut State Police, Stefanik was flying an ultralight, single-seat Aerolite 103 aircraft when he lost control and crashed in a forested area in Sterling, Connecticut.
Stefanik took off from Riconn Airport in Rhode Island on Sunday, but something went wrong when his aircraft banked to turn back to the airfield. Police are still investigating the cause of the crash.
With 9 championships under his belt and 6 nominations to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Stefanik was a legendary driver and beloved by his fans.
“Mike Stefanik was one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR history, but even more so, he was a true representative of our sport,” NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France said in a statement. “His tough, competitive nature and excellence on the race track won him the respect and admiration of fans and competitors alike. His career stretched more than 30 years, bridging the generations between Jerry Cook and Richie Evans to our current drivers. He recorded achievements in this sport that are likely untouchable, and his legacy as a champion will endure. We will keep his wife Julie and his family and friends in our prayers.”
We are saddened to hear the news about nine-time NASCAR Champion and NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Mike Stefanik’s passing. NASCAR statement: pic.twitter.com/VqRBxBpB18— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 16, 2019
Stefanik won 9 NASCAR championships, including titles in 1989, 1991, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002 and 2006 for the Whelen Modified Tour, along with two wins in 1997 and 1998 for the Busch North Championship (which is now called the K&N Pro Series East Championship).
In total, Stefanik had 12 wins and 65 top 5 finishes in 164 East starts. He finished second in points during his last season in 2005. Stefanik shares the record for most NASCAR championship wins with NASCAR Hall of Famer Richie Evans.